Data processing, as an industry and service, has grown immensely over the years. The demand for storing, moving, accessing and managing data that companies make today would be unimaginable even just a few years ago. However, this also means that the need for data threatens to outpace developments that make processing big data possible, especially when that data becomes increasingly decentralized. Recent years have seen the term “data fabric” join the ever-growing lexicon of big data, but this one may be worth paying attention to.
The Premise of Data Fabrics
A data fabric is a platform that allows integration and management across multiple sources and formats, creating a single environment from disparate locations. This architecture is often compared to a weave or sheet of fabric stretched over a large space with various devices and data storage centers, connecting them together and allowing a common means of processing.
To do this, data fabrics generally make use of prepackaged connectors, built-in data and application integration capabilities and API support to facilitate data sharing between platforms. The goal is to allow a holistic view of an enterprise’s data streams and sources.
The “Data Silo” Problem
“Data has gravity,” as NetApp general manager Anthony Lye put it. That is to say, data is resistant to being moved from one system to another, or even simply from one format to another. With the growth of data processing services, many larger companies end up with a variety of infrastructures under their domain, from on-premises servers to off-site data centers and cloud architectures, each of which has its own data governance and security protocols.
This results in what is called “data silos”—systems meant to operate together but hindered by management and incompatibility issues, preventing easy access and wasting the efforts of data professionals. Competing, often proprietary, technologies often compound this issue, as do legacy infrastructures that become too costly to replace. Such mismanagement is what data fabrics are meant to address.
Weaving Your Data Streams Together
Building a data fabric provides a company with the means to succeed and grow by addressing many of the common issues in data processing and management. Some of the advantages that come from a smartly built data fabric include:
- Unified environment for accessing, managing and using data, independent of format;
- Reduced delay when making queries;
- Allowing structured, unstructured, dynamic and persistent data all in one architecture;
- Accessibility across different devices and locations;
- Risk mitigation by reducing reliance on legacy solutions and by unifying security systems;
- Facilitates usage of the cloud by enabling hybrid and multi-cloud environments;
- Easy modernization, scalability and future-proofing—the data fabric is “overlaid” onto the systems, and new sources and endpoints can be added simply.
Altogether, this means that company investments—experts, hardware, software and more—are utilized more efficiently, with less downtime tracking down lost data, troubleshooting networking issues and dealing with security flaws. As a result, the company can afford to spend more time on its core services and on providing clients with what they need.